Wash­ing­ton and world say for­mal farewell to Ge­orge H.W. Bush

Ledger-Enquirer - - Front page - BY PE­TER BAKER

The na­tion bade farewell on Wed­nes­day to Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, the pa­tri­arch of one of the most con­se­quen­tial po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties of mod­ern times and the pres­i­dent who presided over the end of the Cold War and the be­gin­ning of a new era of Amer­i­can dom­i­nance in the world.

As bells tolled and choirs sang and an honor guard ac­com­pa­nied the cof­fin, the na­tion’s 41st pres­i­dent was re­mem­bered as a “kinder and gen­tler” leader at a tu­mul­tuous mo­ment whose for­ti­tude steered the coun­try through storms at home and abroad and whose es­sen­tial de­cency set a stan­dard for oth­ers to meet.

“When the his­tory books are writ­ten,” his son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said in a eu­logy at Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral, “they will say that Ge­orge H.W. Bush was a great pres­i­dent of the United States, a diplo­mat of un­matched skill, a com­man­der in chief of for­mi­da­ble ac­com­plish­ment and a gen­tle­man who ex­e­cuted the du­ties of his of­fice with dig­nity and honor.”

Ge­orge W. Bush, like his fa­ther an emo­tional man given to tear­ing up over fam­ily, strug­gled to make it through his eu­logy, his eyes wa­tery, his face etched with emo­tion. He held on un­til the very end, when he choked up and be­gan weep­ing as he called the for­mer pres­i­dent “the best fa­ther a son or daugh­ter could ever have.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump joined all four liv­ing for­mer pres­i­dents as well as for­eign lead­ers, law­mak­ers and Supreme Court jus­tices at the ser­vice, but given his his­tory of ran­cor with the Bush fam­ily, he had no speak­ing role. There was less of an overt sense of re­buke to Trump than at the funeral for Sen. John McCain in Septem­ber, where he was not in­vited, but the im­plicit con­trasts be­tween the for­mer and cur­rent pres­i­dents were hard to miss.

While speak­ers talked about Bush’s ci­vil­ity, his com­mit­ment to the in­sti­tu­tions of gov­ern­ment and his faith in al­liances, Trump was sit­ting just feet away, his arms some­times crossed. With­out di­rectly say­ing so, the speak­ers pushed back against Trump’s mock­ery of the for­mer pres­i­dent’s vol­un­teerism slo­gan “a thou­sand points of light” dur­ing cam­paign ral­lies this year.

“To us,” the younger Bush said, “his was the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light.”

The el­der Bush died on Fri­day at age 94 af­ter years of strug­gling with a form of Parkin­son’s dis­ease. His cof­fin, draped in a flag, was taken af­ter the ser­vice to Joint Base An­drews out­side Wash­ing­ton, where it was loaded aboard one of the blue­and-white pres­i­den­tial jets for a fi­nal flight home to Texas.

The state funeral served as a mile­stone in the life of a coun­try that has moved be­yond the type of pol­i­tics Bush preached and, with no­table ex­cep­tions, prac­ticed. The mo­ments of bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise that marked his pres­i­dency feel alien as the pol­i­tics of anger and divi­sion dom­i­nate Wash­ing­ton and the coun­try.

As with any funeral, Bush was ven­er­ated in death in ways he was not al­ways in life. Dur­ing his time in pol­i­tics, he was ex­co­ri­ated by con­ser­va­tives for break­ing his “read my lips” vow not to raise taxes, by lib­er­als for his racially charged cam­paign tac­tics, and by many across the spec­trum for his inat­ten­tion to the grow­ing eco­nomic trou­bles at home. He gar­nered just 37 per­cent of the vote in seek­ing re-elec­tion in 1992, the low­est of any in­cum­bent pres­i­dent in 80 years.

But with the pas­sage of time, Bush has be­come one of the most ad­mired re­cent oc­cu­pants of the Oval Of­fice, ranked third out of the last 10 in polls, be­hind only Ron­ald Rea- gan and John F. Kennedy. For a one-term pres­i­dent, his record looms large. He helped bring the Cold War to a peace­ful end, paved the way for the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many, launched the Gulf War to ex­pel Iraqi in­vaders from Kuwait, and bol­stered Amer­ica’s stand­ing around the world.

Even his bro­ken tax pledge was hailed on Wed­nes­day as an ex­am­ple of po­lit­i­cal courage, when he put aside ide­ol­ogy and ex­pe­di­ence to cut a bi­par­ti­san agree­ment to re­duce the deficit. He was re­mem­bered as well for sign­ing land­mark leg­is­la­tion on civil rights and the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­cans With Dis­abil­i­ties Act.

“I be­lieve it will be said that no oc­cu­pant of the Oval Of­fice was more coura­geous, more princi- pled or more honor­able than Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush,” said for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney of Canada, a friend of the for­mer pres­i­dent’s who was asked to de­liver a tribute.

Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning his­to­rian who be­came close to Bush as his bi­og­ra­pher, called him “Amer­ica’s last great sol­dier-states­man, a 20th-cen­tury found­ing fa­ther.”

“Abra­ham Lincoln’s bet­ter an­gels of our na­ture and Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s thou­sand points of light are com­pan­ion verses in Amer­ica’s na­tional hymn,” Meacham said. “For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the con­ve­nient, to hope rather than to fear and to heed not our worst im­pulses but our best instincts.”

By now, Bush’s sto­ried life is well known. A son of priv­i­lege and prod­uct of an elite ed­u­ca­tion at Green­wich Coun­try Day School, Phillips Academy and Yale. One of the youngest navy com­bat pi­lots in World War II, shot down over the Pa­cific and res­cued by a sub­ma­rine. Texas oil­man. Con­gress­man. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. Re­pub­li­can Party chair­man. En­voy to China. CIA di­rec­tor. Vice pres­i­dent. Pres­i­dent.

But also hus­band of 73 years, fa­ther of six, grand­fa­ther of 14 and great­grand­fa­ther of eight. Ten­nis player. Man­gler of the English lan­guage. Pork rind afi­cionado. Broc­coli hater. Pro­lific note writer. Prac­ti­cal joker. Avid speed boater. In­ven­tor of speed golf. Ge­ri­atric sky diver. Lover of funny socks.

A pa­tri­cian by back­ground, Bush none­the­less was in many ways the most hu­man of pres­i­dents. He was not the tow­er­ing fig­ure Rea­gan was, but nei­ther was he as re­mote. His foibles were eas­ily par­o­died, but his es­sen­tial hu­man­ity was not.

For­mer Sen. Alan Simp­son, R-Wyo., a long­time friend of the for­mer pres­i­dent, said Bush could have just one let­ter as his epi­graph, L for loy­alty.

“It coursed through his blood,” he said, “loy­alty to his coun­try, loy­alty to his fam­ily, loy­alty to his friends, loy­alty to the in­sti­tu­tions of gov­ern­ment and al­ways, al­ways, al­ways a friend to his friends.”


For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush


The cof­fin bear­ing the re­mains of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried out af­ter his funeral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral in Wash­ing­ton.


For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush de­liv­ers the eu­logy dur­ing the funeral of his fa­ther, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, at the Na­tional Cathe­dral.


From left, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, and for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter lis­ten as for­mer Sen. Alan Simp­son, R-Wyo., speaks dur­ing a state funeral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day.

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